How to Effectively Manage Remote Teams

Remote employees often struggle to maintain a sense of teamwork. They may experience challenges like isolation, finding a work-life balance, or a lack of broadband connectivity.

Managers need to check in regularly with remote teams to make sure staff are supported and productive. However, this shouldn’t include stipulating set times for them to be available.

1. Communicate

One of the biggest challenges that remote teams face is a sense of disconnect from their in-office counterparts. This can lead to a lack of productivity, disengagement and even employee turnover.

Effective communication powers team productivity. As a manager, you need to keep an open line of communication with your remote team.

This means setting aside time for regular, structured one-on-one phone or video conference calls with each member of your team. This is in addition to a recurring weekly or biweekly team meeting.

Also, great remote managers contextualize thoughts in writing and use concise language to ensure that their direct reports fully understand what’s being conveyed. This removes margin for misinterpretation that can occur over email. This is especially important when dealing with asynchronous communication.

2. Delegate

Delegating tasks is one of the most effective ways to manage remote teams, but it’s a delicate process. Managers must know how much authority to give to their team members, while also being able to monitor and supervise their work.

When assigning tasks, consider each member’s strengths and skills. Try to delegate tasks that utilize those skills as well as provide growth opportunities. This will ensure that your team members don’t get bored or start browsing job boards!

It’s also important to create a feedback loop that allows you to follow up on delegated tasks. This will help to keep everyone in the loop and prevent misunderstandings and miscommunications. This also gives you a chance to correct any issues that arise as the task progresses.

3. Recognize

While remote work has many advantages, it also adds extra layers of complexity to the management function. As managers become more familiar with the challenges that work from home brings, they can better prepare for and circumnavigate them.

During the initial transition period, it’s important to clearly communicate the company expectations regarding remote work. These include the types of communication that require a group video call, what constitutes an urgent issue versus a regular status update, and how often employees should touch base with supervisors.

It’s also important to set a schedule for one-on-one meetings with each employee and stick to it. This is a vital way to ensure that employees are not missing out on important updates or feedback. It is also an opportunity to discuss the work/life balance and make sure that the team members feel supported in their decision to work remotely.

4. Encourage

Remote managers must balance acknowledging their team members’ fears and anxieties with “keeping calm and carrying on.” While a steady hand is important, it’s also vital to give employees the space to vent.

Encourage your team to communicate openly about their concerns via Slack and email, so they feel supported even when working from home. It’s also a good idea to make sure all employees have access to video conferencing software so they can easily schedule time with their manager to discuss any issues or concerns.

One-on-one meetings can help foster a sense of camaraderie with remote team members, so try to establish consistent virtual meetings on a weekly basis to cover general topics and update each employee. GitLab suggests implementing routine “ask me anything” sessions to provide the opportunity for employees to get feedback on any questions or challenges they are having, and to discuss their career aspirations.

5. Empower

Getting to know your remote team members is one of the keys to building trust and empowering them. Understanding what motivates them – both personally and professionally – can help you align projects with their interests and empower them to take on more responsibility.

It’s also essential to provide them with the tools they need to succeed. Equip them with digital tools that are easy to manage and outline contingencies for when things go wrong.

And don’t forget to keep the lines of communication open. Make sure you’re reaching out regularly, whether that’s through workplace chat, phone or video conference. Too much time goes by without a check-in and the trust may start to disintegrate.

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